Over the years I’ve had ALS, I’ve become convinced that for a Christian to retain hope in the midst of a difficult trial, he or she must believe that God allowed the trial for a purpose; a purpose greater than what God would have been able to accomplish in and through that person apart from the trial.
“…even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
I think every Christian that goes through a difficult trial will eventually ask “Why me?”
But, I’ve learned that our motive behind asking this seemingly simple question says a lot about how we view God – and also a lot about how we view ourselves.
The first man asks the question like this: “Why me; out of 7 billion people in the world, why did I get ALS (or whatever)?”
He’s really asking, “Why didn’t God put this horrible trial on one of the other 7 billion people?”
This man has a warped view of God and an exalted view of himself. He views his trial as pointless, and he thinks that he should somehow be exempt from the suffering of humanity.
I know what I said about this first man sounds harsh and judgmental, but I know this man well; in a spiritual and emotional sense, I wrestled with him for several months after being diagnosed with ALS.
Thankfully, with the help of God’s word, wise counsel from Christian friends and a well-timed conversation with our non-Christian next-door neighbors, I began to see that there might be a purpose, an eternal purpose, behind my trial. I defeated that “woe is me” man who was fighting to take control of my thoughts and emotions. (More about our next-door neighbors further down).
The second man asks the question like this: “Why me; what’s God’s purpose behind allowing this horrible trial?”
This man has the correct view of God and of his place in the world. As a Christian, this man knows that God wouldn’t have allowed this trial unless He had a greater purpose, a purpose that outweighs the suffering this man would have to endure (from his trial).
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
That verse can only be true if we have an eternal (“Big Picture”) view of our trial. God still heals and performs miracles, and I believe that we should always pray for that result. (Never give up on God doing miracles!)
Regardless of the outcome, God can bring about eternal good from every trial.
In a hundred years, the eternal good that comes from our trial will be the only thing that matters.
A difficult trial (usually) causes the Christian to focus more on the spiritual and the eternal things because, by comparison, the temporal and the material things begin to look more and more insignificant.
Back to our next-door neighbors: Mike and Lorraine were not followers of Christ when we met them. Of course, we did our Christian duty and invited them to church and tried to share the “Good news” with them. Even our girls (then 4 and 7) invited them to church, but all to no avail.
Mike and Lorraine later told us that they mocked us in private. I told them that I could relate because, before making a commitment to follow Christ, I mocked Christians too. Let’s be honest, making fun of Christians is so easy.
But, after I was diagnosed, Mike and Lorraine began to reexamine the faith that was sustaining our family through this trial. Lorraine told me:
“…When you were diagnosed with ALS I began to see a man who held no anger with the God that ‘allowed’ this to happen. Then you began to demonstrate trust in God’s plan. I saw your faith and I saw two little girls accept what God was doing in your lives and I began to wonder how such young children could love God unconditionally. I opened my heart first to the possibility that this might be a good thing for me as well. Then I finally got it and allowed my brain to accept the basic truth that God is only good, loving and faithful…”
Mike and Lorraine made a commitment to follow Christ and faithfully attend church and share their faith with others. (Now people probably make fun of them).
Would Mike and Lorraine have made a commitment to follow Christ if we had not gone through this trial? Obviously, only God knows the answer to questions like this. The only thing I know for sure is that this trial has strengthened my faith and has also given me more confidence in sharing that faith.
But, I admit that difficult trials can feel like you’re serving a prison sentence, especially when you have ALS and you’re imprisoned in your own body. However, the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament while imprisoned. And, many of his fellow prisoners and the guards that observed Paul, became followers of Christ. Only Jesus can spread a message of hope through a prisoner – this is truly Unshakable Hope!
UPDATE: Sadly, Mike went through a long battle with cancer and is now with Christ in heaven. I am looking forward to seeing him again.
I hope I’ll see you there also.
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)
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Posted on June 14, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged ALS, Bible, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Disease, Eternity, Faith, Fear, God, Grace, Healing, Heaven, Hope, Jesus, Miracle, Prayer, Purpose, Religion, Salvation, Spiritual, Trials. Bookmark the permalink. 290 Comments.